My Blog Adventure!

Welcome to my blog! It's high time this 46 year old ventures into blog world and joins the ranks of you intriguing bloggers. First off, you should know I love the Lord Jesus Christ with all my heart. I love His Creation, His Word, His forgiveness, His mercy, and His being the Savior of my life. He is my reason for living! After the Lord, my next love in life is my outdoor-lovin', prankster pullin', hard workin' man I've called my husband for 22 years and counting. My 3 sons - to whom this blog is dedicated - have the next piece of my heart, and they fill my world with laughter, love, and laundry. I am calling this MY BLOG ADVENTURE... so hop into blog world with me... let's get to encouraging one another... this could be fun!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Personal Style Within the Structure of the Plans, Part 1

Can you encourage personal style within the provided structure of Heart of Dakota's plans?  

Absolutely!  In fact, the opportunity for personal style is naturally part of the plans already. How are both included, you may ask?  Well, the daily plans provide specific guidelines for each school subject, which gives structure for each assignment.  This type of structure might include how many sentences a written narration should be, what topics need to be narrated upon, which timeline entries need to be made, etc.  Structure gives needed parameters, but it need not squelch the creativity of personal style!

How can students get creative with their personal style then?
Good question!  Well, the good news is personal style is completely a natural part of a living books approach to learning, and a living books approach to learning is part of every Heart of Dakota guide.  Narrations include structure in the plans, such as which books to narrate upon, which pages within that book to narrate upon, and which kind of narration to give.  But, they also encourage personal style by letting each student choose what to retell, which parts to give more attention, and what connections are made.  This is the opposite of a textbook/workbook approach, which include "just the facts ma'am."  Likewise, the varied assessments included in the structure of Heart of Dakota's plans are the opposite of a worksheet, quizzes, and tests only plan for assessments, which include just one right answer.

Do you have some examples of personal style being encouraged within the structure of the plans?
Well, yes I do!  Glad you asked because this is what I wanted to share with you this week in my weekly check-in!  Let's start with my son, Emmett, in Creation to Christ.

Timeline Entry Assignment

Structure in the Plans: 

  • 3 timeline entries must be made
  • specific pictures must be drawn
  • captions must be written

Personal Style:

  • drew his own pictures
  • colored the pictures how he wanted
  • chose to write his labels in either cursive or print
A Few Things to Remember:
This isn't a drawing assignment, so if the timeline pictures are not of art quality - in the name of personal style - let it be!  However, structure demands the right 3 things are drawn labeled with the proper captions.

Geography Travel Log Assignment

Structure in the Plans:

  • Geography of the Holy Lands must be read
  • writing must show something learned
  • drawing must show something learned
Personal Style:
  • chose his own Travel Log template
  • chose his own 3 topics to write about
  • chose his own picture to draw
A Few Things to Remember:
This isn't a quiz, so if your student didn't write a summary of what was learned - in the name of personal style - let it be!  However, structure demands the 3 written topics and the 1 drawing must be pertinent to the geography reading.

Poetry Appreciation Assignment:

Structure in the Plans:
  • must read the poem pausing at punctuation marks
  • must write the given stanza
  • must follow the steps to watercolor paint
Personal Style:
  • chose his own way of doing the painting (no 'perfect' model was given for him to look at, which encourages personal style as opposed to exactly duplicating someone else's painting)
  • chose his own small picture to draw
  • chose where to place his index card
A Few Things to Remember:
This isn't an art appreciation assignment (it's a poetry appreciation assignment), so if your student didn't paint a jaw-dropping picture - in the name of personal style - let it be!  However, structure demands the steps for creating the painting and the steps for creating the card be followed.

Next weekly check-in, I'll share Part 2 of this series on personal style within the structure of the plans in regard to my son Riley, who is completing World Geography this year.  Then, the following weekly check-in, I'll share Part 3 of this series in regard to my son Wyatt, who is completing U.S. History II this year.  For now, I'll just sign off saying... Happy Valentine's Day to all you lovely ladies!  

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Heart of Dakota Week-in-Review Feb. 5-9

Heart of Dakota Week-in-Review
Feb. 5-9

 In USII, Wyatt has been reading I'll Watch the Moon for his living library selection.  This book is a page-turner that just cannot be put down!  The characters have so much depth to them, and his favorite is a holocaust survivor who brings hope and peace to all who know him.  There are some hard things to read in this book!  But then life is hard sometimes, especially in the aftermath of the holocaust.  He worked ahead and did multiple journal entries each day at the end of the book because he just had to know how it ended.  I'll Watch the Moon is a gem of a book that is a rare find - thank you Carrie for choosing so carefully!

In USII History, Wyatt has been learning about "I Like Ike," the end of the Korean War, Billy Graham, and McCarthyism.  He did a detailed high-lighted written narration about his reading from America: The Last Best Hope. Answering some wonderful critical thinking questions really got him thinking deeply about what he read.  The critical thinking question "State Department Worker:  What should you tell the Senate Foreign Relations Committee?" put him in the role of decision maker.  Reading the actual outcome is always interesting as well!!!

In World Geography, Riley wrote a persuasive essay for Essentials in Writing Grade 10. He researched and wrote about the dangers of chewing tobacco.  We know some young adult men not much older than Riley that chew tobacco, and it really worries Riley.  It would be wonderful for them to stop!  His essay explains the dangers of chewing tobacco, and he did an excellent job researching it.  I like that he can choose his own topics within the realm of the requirements of the assignment. This allows him to be personally invested in his essay right from the start!

World Geography History has had Riley learning about Davis' polar journeys, Hudson's and Baffin's Bay, and Raleigh's Ed Dorado.  He drew and labeled a picture of Davis' invention of the backstaff, which allowed navigators to have more accurate latitude readings. An important quote from Davis was also copied in the notebook.  Earlier he wrote a written narration about Martin Frobisher as well. He is truly loving learning about all of these brave explorers!

 In Creation to Christ, Emmett first learned about Alexander the Great conquering Persia and then moved on to learn about Alexander's entire empire.  He used strips of paper to make his own ancient map of the places he has been reading about.  He also drew the famous horse Bucephalus. Timeline entries on the Peloponnesian War, Philip of Macedonia gaining control of Greece, and the Reign of Alexander the Great were added to his notebook as well. He researched Olympia, which was so fitting as the winter olympics are soon beginning here!  Don't you just love it when the Lord makes neat connections between HOD history and real life like this?!? Finally, he drew the famous Lighthouse of Alexandria.

One of his favorite activities this week was painting a lovely sunset to go with his Robert Frost poem "Acceptance." He also enjoyed adding to his plant notebooking booklet.  Researching and drawing the dead nettle plant, as well as copying a Bible verse beneath it, added another lovely entry to his growing plant book.  Finally, we all enjoyed getting together at our house to watch the Superbowl!  Here is a picture of my mom, Nana, with all 7 of the boys!

What a terrific week!  Hope you had a good homeschooling week too!!!

In Christ,

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Welcome to the Olympics

Welcome to the Olympics!

Ancient Greece was the living book Emmett read for Creation to Christ this week, so of course his History Project included bringing to life the most popular Olympic events.  Naturally, all of our sons insisted on joining in the fun!  Events competed in were the...

  • shot-put (launching a cotton ball across our living room)
  • broad jump (jumping as far as possible from a given starting point)
  • discus throw (tossing a paper plate to send it hurtling into the air)
  • javelin toss (throwing a straw torpedoing through the room)
  • long jump (taking a running start to jump as far as possible)
Put on Your Game Face!

In preparation for the Olympics, Emmett created a chart with 3 trials for each event.  Using a tape measure to determine each distance in inches, he recorded the data for each trial in his chart.  The results?  Competition was fierce, but laughter could often be heard even during the most heated of battles!  Each son showed prowess in different events, and though age was often a benefit it did not always ensure victory.  Favorite events were the long jump, the broad jump, and the discus throw.  Given the chance, I do believe each of them would gladly compete in the Olympics again tomorrow.  However, a new history project will surely offer another opportunity for fun!  

'Fun Mama' Makes a Rare Appearance!
As always, Heart of Dakota's hands-on projects leave my sons with the impression that this homeschool mama is loads of fun.  The rest of you homeschool moms know the truth; I'm just a mom doing what's in the guide. But for now, I'm basking in the moment of being 'fun mama'.  No need to point out the obvious... that Carrie Austin actually transformed this ordinary mama into a witty, merry, creative mama with a swoosh of her magic writing wand.  I'll be back to working, cleaning, cooking, boring, Cinderella mama tomorrow, but for this Olympic moment, I was at the ball.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Science... something to love for everyone!

Science... something to love for everyone!

Science Experiment
(notice how Emmett has
made this a social
event by inviting his
brothers to join in)
Science 5 Comprehension
Questions (notice how Emmett 
has made this a social event 
as well as he read it
"For Cuddles" his hamster,
which you
can see he wrote at the top)
Science in Heart of Dakota is an adventure in itself!  It starts with reading amazing living books, and then it adds in a variety of ways to respond to that reading.  This variety appeals to all students, as there is always something a student will love best to do!  In Creation to Christ, creating a science notebook entry appeals to visual and solitary learning styles, giving an oral narration appeals to aural and verbal and social learning styles, answering 5 comprehension questions with scientific terms and Biblical application appeals to logical learning styles, and conducting an experiment and logging it in a science notebook uses physical and visual learning styles.

Of course our son Emmett's favorite way to respond to the reading is conducting an experiment.  He makes this physical response to his reading also into a social and verbal response (his other two favorite learning styles) by sharing the results with all of us at any and every opportunity.  I love that he is not only able to respond to his science with his favorite learning styles but also that he is able to respond to his science with his less than preferred learning styles!  Of course he is best at his favorites, and not quite as good at his less than favorites. So, by having all of these learning styles represented each week, he looks forward to his favorites, and he works on those he needs to improve upon.  This balance helps him become a well-rounded student, who can respond in a variety of ways to what he has learned.

Science Oral Narration
(notice he has made this
even more social, as he
not only orally narrates
for me, but also for his
Beanie Balz, Flash and Speedy)
Science Lab Sheet
(the experiments
 are always
his favorite, but I 
snapped a picture 
of this as it
was one of his
best lab sheets)
Science Notebooking
(often times there is color
in these, but I loved 
this one as he learned
how to compare and contrast
using a Venn diagram)

So, no matter what learning style your entrepreneuring student loves best and has been gifted with by the Lord, Heart of Dakota's science has it covered!  And not only that, those less gifted styles... Heart of Dakota's got those covered too!  So, your kiddo will be the best at what God's intended and good at the rest!  Have a great week!

In Christ,

Monday, January 22, 2018

5 Tips to Fully Enjoying Creation to Christ's Notebooking Pages

CTC is the first year kiddos get to write in those beautiful full-color notebooks!  As HOD moms, we eagerly await this rite of passage, and we just can't wait to begin a special keepsake of the year using those lovely notebooking pages!  And they ARE lovely.  But, the writing and pictures and entries kiddos make on those lovely pages can be... well, lovely and not-so-lovely.  So what should we expect as moms for first-time notebook users?  

1. EXPECT THE PLANS TO BE DONE... but give extra 'grace' as this is a training year!
So, when the CTC plans say for kiddos to draw, color, and label 3 timeline pictures; they need to strive to do that.  When the plans say a certain number of sentences for their written narration; they need to strive to write that number of sentences.  When the plans say for a certain passage to be copied in cursive; they need to strive to do that.  However, progress should be evident!  In other words, improvement from the start to the finish of the notebook should be visually obvious, with the first entries being less 'lovely' or 'complete' than the last. Remember to give grace, especially at the start of the year, knowing this is a training year for learning how to use the notebooks.

2. ENCOURAGE WRITING INSIDE THE BOXES... but understand this may be hard at first!
Learning to write inside the boxes is a skill in itself.  Often students just don't notice the edges of the boxes, and they could just write outside of them not knowing the goal is to try to stay inside them.  So, just pointing out the goal is to stay inside the boxes and the frames of the boxes are the stopping places is very helpful!  Students' writing is also often larger, especially if they are on the younger side of the target age range of CTC.  Learning to 'shrink' their writing is also a skill in itself.  It takes time, but little by little encouraging students to develop fine motor skills to write smaller within a defined area is well worth it!  

3. KNOW WHEN THE GOAL IS MET... and call it 'good enough' then!
Carrie makes clear in the guides the goals for each part of the plans.  The Introduction, the Appendix, and the daily plans of each guide help us know when a 'goal' is met.  So, for example, the goal of the timeline is to keep a chronological record of what has been studied.  It is not to have a beautiful artistic drawing - though some kiddos will be able to do that too!  The goal of the written narration is to retell the history reading using guided questions.  It is not to answer every question perfectly, as if it was a quiz to be mastered - creativity is allowed!  So, if the student wrote the designated number of sentences (even if it was the minimum suggested), if the student answered some/most of the questions, and if the answers make quite good sense... the goal is met, and it can be deemed 'good enough'!  

4. WRITING MUST BE LEGIBLE... but not perfect!
The 'loveliness' of students' writing will vary greatly, and that is alright.  What is not alright is if it just cannot be read at all!  One sure-fire way to help kiddos understand this is to have them read aloud their written narrations with pencil in hand.  As they read aloud to us, they can be encouraged to make changes they need to as they read.  Often times, they will catch missing words, misspelled words, missing punctuation, etc. themselves, and that only serves to help us have less to edit later with them!  If they cannot read their own writing, they will begin to understand that no one else will be able to read it either... and the real shame here is NOT that their writing is not perfect... it is that their ideas, their responses, their thoughts will not be able to be shared with others - and their ideas are what we LOVE... so writing must be legible, but it need not be perfect.

5. EDITING IS A SKILL TO BE LEARNED... one step at a time!  
Editing is a process, and slow but steady progress is the goal.  The best thing to do is to use the Written Narration Skills: Teacher's List and the Written Narration Skills: Student's List in the Appendix of CTC.  Step 1 should be taught first; then, move on to Step 2, and so forth.  Focusing on teaching ONE skill at a time in the order it is listed will help you avoid overwhelming your child with too many skills at once, and will give your child a manageable plan for editing writing. This slow and steady process helps students improve one step at a time, and ensures we as moms do not to tip over to expecting perfection by making a student erase and rewrite everything; or by making them write everything twice.  Written narrations are not to have a first, second, third draft, and making students do so will only cause them to dislike written narrations... intensely!

So, below you will see my son's CTC Student Notebook... and this is the halfway mark, as he is in Units 18-19!  Progress in many areas is evident, but more progress is expected as we move forward!  It is LOVELY in its own way, and I look forward to it becoming more and more so as he becomes better and better at each of these amazing skills, step-by-step!!!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Heart of Dakota Week-in-Review: Jan. 8-12

Heart of Dakota Week-in-Review:
Jan. 8-12

In Creation to Christ Emmett finished the last part of his unit on the Persian Empire, and began the first part of his unit on the geography and beginning of Greece.  Emmett made the yummiest Hamantashen's - we will be making these again and again!!!  This was part of our history project, where we read about Esther's story in the Bible and how the Jews celebrate Purim.  Emmett made a gragger too, and he shook it loudly every time Haman's name was mentioned in the reading, to blot out the name of evil, as is the custom.  And then of course, we ate our Hamantashen's (meaning Haman's pockets).  MMMM!  We all loved this history project!

Emmett also completed his Singapore Math 4A Review - whew!  It was a tough one, but I'm so amazed at all he is learning!  I stay nearby to help with these reviews, and I like how they parallel real life problems, as well as how they are similar to standardized testing problems, as they include many skills - not just one skill.  He likes to circle the numbers of the problems as he finishes them, just so you know he didn't miss all those!  He also learned about plural nouns in grammar, and he completed an assignment on the setting of his DITHOR book Iron Scouts of the Confederacy.  AND, on top of all that he helped his daddy redo his room, hanging insulation and sheet rock with him!  Whew, what a week!

In World Geography 9th grade high school, Riley completed his unit on Verrazzano and Cartier exploring North America's Atlantic coast.  He read the primary source document of Verrazanno's letter to King Francis I in France.  Isn't it amazing we can still read letters such as these - this was from July 8, 1524, and it was a letter in which he reported to the king on his voyage to the New World?!?  I love that we can still read the actual words of people from history in primary source documents!  What better way to learn about people and events than from reading their words precisely as they were written!  Riley also wrote a written narration about Cartier's explorations, and i think he took some inspiration from Verrazzano's letter.

Riley is already in Lesson 92 in Getting Started with Spanish!  He is doing such a good job of trying to stay on top of this.  He reads his answers to me, and then he also reads the odds aloud in Spanish to practice properly saying the words.  He listens to the audio for help too.  This is working well!  In grammar he worked on diagramming, and throughout the week he added special quotes, verses, etc. to his Common Place Book.  This is a continuation of last year, and it's neat to see it 'grow'!

In U.S. History II Wyatt has been learning about the Battle of the Bulge, the Yalta Conference, the War in the Pacific, and FDR's Death.  This time in history is filled with famous speeches, turbulent times, and critical decisions being made - it captivates his attention!  It's somewhat emotional - so many hard things.  However, Hitler's final days show how his mental health began to decline more and more, with a last minute wedding and his suicide shortly after.  Mussolini's execution, FDR's death, and Truman's taking over - oh my.  So much happening in such little time!

One of his favorite assignments comes from his resource Key Decisions in U.S. History.  The question "Should the U.S. drop the atomic bomb on Japan to end the war?" is asked, and Wyatt responded with his opinion.  Then, he gets to read what decision was made, by Truman in this case.  Commentary on all that went into the decision further supports the reasons the decision was made, but one is always left understanding how the decision was NOT easy to make, whether it was the 'right' or the 'wrong' one in the student's opinion.  What a powerful assignment that reminds us to pray for our leaders!!!  So many decisions they must make each day!!!

One thing I thought I'd share is a fun meal we've been doing for one of our homeschool lunches - we do a kind of charcuterie board with whatever we have on hand.  Usually, we have cold leftover rotisserie chicken, cut up fruit, different kinds of nuts/dried fruits, several kinds of crackers, bread or toast with butter, and cut up block cheese.  They love it!  Everyone chooses their favorites - though I do say they must have some chicken, and choose at lease some of the nuts/cheeses to try.  I just cover a bar pan with tinfoil for easy clean-up.  So easy, and such fun!  Hope you had a great week homeschooling too!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Heart of Dakota Week-in-Review: January 1-5

Heart of Dakota Week-in-Review:
January 1-5

In Creation to Christ, Emmett completed his Travel Log for Egypt.  He enjoys this read aloud we do together, and his travel logs are quite organized now - in 3 topics - hooray!  He also LOVED his science experiment, which had him experimenting with different kinds of 'beaks'.  In math, he has been learning to measure angles with a protractor.  I had to snap a  few pictures of Emmett's
                                                    Christmas gift - meet Cuddles the hamster!

In World Geography, Riley read about the Spice Route.  He had a blast making a game board for the Spice Islands Game.  He also really enjoyed his Art of Argument lessons this week.  He did well on his quiz/test for it too - hooray! 

In USII, Wyatt has been reading about the Battle of Normandy - D-Day, and he has been fascinated with it.  He high-lighted the main points and subpoints in his book to prepare for his narration.  He also completed a written narration in his USII Notebook.  I enjoyed hearing him share what he learned in this format! 
 Some other highlights - hunting coyotes for our neighbor who asked us to since his farm is over-run with them.  Spending New Year's Eve at my niece's wedding in Houston with my whole family!!!  My mom with 7 grandsons!!!